If you or your senior loved one is a veteran, this past service can often make senior living more affordable. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a variety of programs and benefits that help provide long-term care to veterans. VA nursing homes, also called VA community living centers, stand out as a popular and accessible senior living option for older veterans.
Currently, more than 100 VA community living centers serve veterans all across the country. These VA nursing homes typically house veterans on or near the campus of a VA medical center. Learn more about the services they offer, associated costs for veterans and their families, and how to determine if a nursing home is the right fit for your loved one’s care needs.
Specific services VA nursing homes offer can vary by state. In general, however, veterans and their caregivers can expect the following care, administered by licensed professionals:
Care plans at many community living centers include a wider range of assistance:
In addition to addressing physical and mental health, VA nursing homes also help prevent social isolation in seniors. Like in most other senior living settings, residents in VA community living centers can expect a wide range of group activities — like games, movie nights, performances by visiting choirs, and social hours — as well as nutritious, communal meals. A VA nursing home can also minimize both senior and caregiver stress by providing consistent housekeeping, laundry, and maintenance.
Find and contact a VA community living center in your area to ensure staff can meet your or your loved one’s specific health needs.
To be eligible for VA nursing home care, a person must be enrolled in VA health care benefits. The first steps are to make sure your family member meets the requirements and to submit an application.
To access VA health care benefits, veterans need to have served in active duty and to have received an honorable discharge. While these standards represent minimum requirements, your senior loved one can enhance their eligibility and gain a higher priority level — meaning they are more likely to receive care — if at least one of the following is also true:
If a veteran served in specific locations during the following wartime periods, this also increases their eligibility.
Even if these eligibility factors aren’t true for a veteran, it’s still possible to qualify for VA health care based on annual income. If you or your loved one earned less than the 2021 income maximums listed below last year, they may qualify based on need. These figures have been set as “income thresholds,” meaning that if a veteran or their spouse brings in more money in a given year, they won’t qualify based on financial need.
For each additional dependent
Additional qualifications for VA nursing homes
After determining eligibility for VA health care, the VA must find all three of the following true in order to admit a patient to a community living center:
For the VA to determine that a patient requires VA nursing home services, healthcare professionals must identify a “medical need.” The definition of medical need can vary by state.
Does the VA pay for nursing home care? In short, yes, though veterans may or may not have a copay based on their priority group. A veteran’s priority group takes into account details like their level of disability, their income, and their service history.
While no veteran will pay for their first 21 days in a community living center or for hospice care, some veterans may pay up to $97 a day for continued long-term care. Contributions from Medicaid or a senior’s private insurance may reduce these health care costs.
A veteran’s copay is likely to change if their priority level or their income shifts significantly.
Though “nursing home” is often used as a general term for senior living, there are actually many care types available. After exploring various senior care options, older adults and caregivers may decide their needs would be better met by a different care model, like assisted living, memory care, or independent living.
In fact, A Place for Mom surveyed 100 families who contacted us seeking “nursing homes” for their relatives. After consulting with our Senior Living Advisors, 89 of those families identified that a nursing home wasn’t the right choice for their aging family member. Before submitting an application for VA nursing home care, consider if the level of care offered by a nursing home best fits your loved one’s unique needs.
Generally, nursing home residents have serious and chronic mental or physical illnesses which demand a higher level of care. Try asking yourself the following questions to gauge if your family member would benefit from a nursing home:
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, the intensive level of care provided by a nursing home may be the right fit. A physician can confirm this designation and prescribe nursing home care.
If your family member doesn’t require nursing home care, but does need help with everyday activities or memory loss, the VA may pay for assisted living, memory care, or home care services through a program called Aid and Attendance. Single veterans may receive up to $1,936 per month to help them pay for care, while married veterans can see up to $2,295 in monthly payments.
If you or your family member already gets VA health care benefits, complete the VA form for extended care services. You’ll need to list information like current income, deductible expenses, and the value of any assets.
If you don’t already receive VA health care benefits, this marks a necessary first step to securing your spot in a VA nursing home. Apply online or download and mail in the printed enrollment form. You’ll need important pieces of information and documents on-hand when you apply:
The process of applying for a VA nursing home can be complicated, but a trustworthy expert can help you navigate it. Consider finding an elder care attorney in your area, visiting your local VA facility, or calling the VA at 800-698-2411.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Community Living Centers. https://www.va.gov/GERIATRICS/pages/VA_Community_Living_Centers.asp
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Eligibility for VA Health Care. https://www.va.gov/health-care/eligibility/
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Annual Income Limits. https://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/apps/explorer/AnnualIncomeLimits/HealthBenefits
The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.